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California Prisoner Rights Act (2008)

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The California Prisoner Rights Act was an initiated state statute that was shooting for the November 2008 general election ballot in California. In order to have accomplished that, supporters of the measure would have had to turn in 433,971 valid signatures by February 25, 2008, they did not manage to do this.

In mid-March 2008, the California Secretary of State announced that the measure had failed to qualify for the November 2008 ballot.

The measure, if it had made it on the ballot would have amended the California Penal Code to provide additional rights to adult prisoners.

Those additional rights included:

  • Confidential meetings and correspondence with media;
  • Minimum 56 hours per week visitation;
  • Minimum time periods for recreation and entertainment;
  • Contact and family overnight visitation for inmates not housed in segregation, security, or intake;
  • Specified minimum access to personal property, canteen goods, and entertainment appliances;
  • Specified minimum telephone access; and
  • Access to movies rated “PG-13,” “R,” and “NC-17.”

The measure would have also eliminated the discretion of prison authorities to prohibit access to materials deemed obscene.

Supporting arguments from the measure's supporters

(a) There is a direct correlation between prisoners who are functionally literate prisoners and those who successfully reintegrate into society upon their release.
(b) There is a direct correlation between functionally literate prisoners and a corresponding reduction in that recidivism rate.
(c) It is in the interest of public safety to provide as much education, vocational, family and personal counseling as is necessary to assist parolees in making their from incarceration to freedom
(d) Maintaining a prisoner's family and community relationships and enhancing visitor services is an effective correctional technique which reduces recidivism and discourages violent prisoner activity
(e) It is important that the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation support and encourage all prisoners in any sincere attempt to transform themselves into upstanding, law-abiding, contributing members of society;
(f) Nothing productive can come from a system that uses discipline and punishment as the foundation for correcting the behavior of prisoners; furthermore, an absence of "rights" or incentives reinforces the erroneous view that such systems are viable.[1]


Ann Smith.

Fiscal Impact

The following was copied from the Legislative Analysts Office for California[2]

  • Increased prison operating costs of several tens of millions of dollars annually primarily to increase inmate access to visiting.
  • One-time capital outlay costs of up to a couple tens of millions of dollars to construct and renovate prison visiting facilities.

External links

Fiscal Impact Statement